David Raksin was active in the music business for so many decades that he was thought by many to be the Grandfather of film music. Sadly news has broken of his death on 9th August 2004 following a period of ill health. Born in 1912, he seemed to have a boundless enthusiasm for musical activities while still at school, learning a variety of instruments, playing in bands, and at various events and competitions. He then went on to study with Arnold Schoenberg, assist Leopold Stokowski and impress George Gerswin with an arrangement of his "I've Got Rhythm". This led to further opportunities and it wasn't long before Raksin was part of the fledgling industry creating film music in the 1930s. One of his earliest jobs was as arranger for Charlie Chaplin on "Modern Times", Chaplin being able to sing the music but requiring assistance to write it down and orchestrate it.
Raksin created notable scores for films such as "Forever Amber" and "The Bad and the Beautiful", though he is best known for the soundtrack to "Laura", where the lead character is always represented by the same theme, an "idée fixe". This haunting melody gets under your skin and stays there, and is totally suited to the plot where the investigating detective is haunted by the subject of his investigations. Raksin and Laura are covered extensively in the book "Film Music, a neglected art" by Roy M. Prendergast (currently out of print but see some copies at this Amazon.com link). Raksin was certainly asked to compose again for movies with a Femme Fatale but never quite managed to recapture that success. In later decades his composing work for the media seemed to move into B-movie territory (with much Sci-Fi and Horror stuff) and then later into music for television.
Nevertheless Raksin was very active in the music business, giving talks on film music, guiding the work of younger composers and lending his services to numerous organisations. Among these roles he was President of the Composers and Lyricists Guild for a number of years and he also sat on the board of ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers).
Notable film soundtracks by David Raksin on CD:
Raksin has also given us extensive reminiscences about the film music industry and the many great composers he has worked with. Check out his thoughts on various film composers of the day at the American Composers web-site.